You Can Still Be Spontaneous Even When You Have Plans

How to live in the present while building for the future…

Yesterday I argued that you should define your dreams and go after them.

In essence, I’m arguing for plans and goals.

But I know there is this narrative that routinely pops up in the modern imagination that having plans is a boring and dry way to live life. That the good life involves a carefree spontaneity and that having a 10 year plan is basically the same thing as a death sentence.

In one respect this narrative still resonates with me despite my position on the side of the planners and the dreamers. The powerful pull of this narrative stems from one core principle: I highly value spontaneity.

To a large extent, spontaneity is the truest expression of one of one of my core values: freedom.

The ability to be spontaneous and to choose in the moment what direction you will go is an indication of having true control over your life, of living life are your terms.

Not only are you free from the demands of others, you are free from the control of the calendar and the planner.

This aspect of control is critical. Much of our lives is spent trying to find order in chaos. We can find some semblance of order by following someone else, but we yield control. We can find it by charting our own path, but we trade freedom and flexibility in the moment. At some level, our present sense of well-being depends on our ability to control our present circumstances.

So how do I reconcile the desire to plan with the desire to preserve spontaneity?

Here are a few thoughts:

The Planner Exists to Serve You, Not the Other Way Around

You always have the ability to choose. Always. It’s the one thing that can’t be taken away from you.

If things change and you no longer value something that you planned, change your plans.

The reason that the plan is valuable is because it frees you from the tyranny of the moment. While I agree that we want to live in the moment, we need to employ enough restraint to make sure we are living within our values. If we gave in to every impulse, we would end up somewhere we didn’t want to go.

Having plans and goals is a way of charting a course to your true north. It’s a way to make sure you are living according to your values and using your time wisely.

Plans keep you from settling, because settling always leads to mediocrity.

The Best Plans Improve Your Options

I mentioned yesterday that any choice you make removes some options from the table. That’s true.

But good choices also add options to the table that weren’t there before. They open new opportunities. And the key point is that consistently making good choices that are in line with a sound plan open up options that are better than the things you choose to forego.

Let’s say you plan on working as hard as you can over the next ten years to increase your income and stash away as much money as possible. At the end of ten years you plan on traveling the globe.

But then, wait a minute, nine years in you discover that what you are really passionate about is starting a non-profit that serves your community.

Now you plan on taking a large portion of your stash and using it to build your new dream.

You are perfectly free to change your plans like that. They are your plans.

The key observation is that without the plan, you wouldn’t be in a position to travel or invest in your new dream of building a non-profit.

The consistent execution of wise plans improves your options.

An Impulsive Activity is Just as Spontaneous if it Replaces a Plan as if it Replaces Nothing

In fact, I would argue that it’s more spontaneous.

If you seize on an unexpected opportunity when you had nothing better to do, that was just common sense.

When you forgo a well-thought out plan to seize on an unexpected opportunity, that has significance. That’s true control over the course of your life.

This is the ninth in a series based on my article 30 Lessons About Life You Should Learn Before Turning 30. Shoutout to Dr. Christine Bradstreet 🌴 for the idea to turn the post into an in-depth series.